FRANKFURT – Volvo Cars has big plans for its all-new '06 C70 4-seat convertible, making a worldwide debut at the auto show here.

“We expect to double sales compared with the first generation's best year,” says Volvo President Hans-Olov Olsson.

That would put the new model at 16,000 units annually, compared with the first-generation C70's peak of 8,000 units worldwide in 2004. In total, Volvo sold about 50,000 of the original C70, introduced in 1996.

The new car will compete against convertible versions of the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Saab 9-3. (See related story: Gen 2 Volvo Convertible to Bow at Frankfurt)

The C70 will reach showrooms sometime in first-half 2006. The U.S., U.K. and Germany are forecast to account for 75% of sales. Volvo says U.S. customers can expect deliveries of the C70 to begin by late spring.

Volvo President Hans-Olov Olsson reveals new Volvo C70.

The C70 has a 3-piece retractable hardtop that converts the vehicle from a convertible to a coupe in 30 seconds at the touch of a button. It's the first 4-seat open car in the luxury segment to offer this feature.

Olsson says the C70 should appeal to customers who are undecided about whether to buy a coupe or a convertible.

Volvo's Uddevalla, Sweden, plant will assemble the new C70, as it did the predecessor. Production is scheduled to start this fall, with initial capacity of 20,000 units.

The plant now is a joint venture between Volvo and Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina SpA, called Pininfarina Sverige AB.

Pininfarina owns 60% of the JV and Volvo controls 40%. The Italian specialty car company, which engineered the retractable roof, is responsible for the development and manufacture of the new C70.

The Uddevalla plant has restructured its production schemes since the first-generation C70 was introduced – with some difficulty.

Volvo established a JV with Tom Walkinshaw Racing to build the first C70 in 1996. Introduction of the car was delayed because of quality problems. Friction between Walkinshaw and Volvo escalated, and the Swedish car maker eventually bought out Walkinshaw and produced the car on its own.

Olsson says he is confident similar problems won't occur this time around, and Pininfarina President Andrea Pininfarina agrees.

“The joint venture with Volvo Cars is an ideal form of cooperation for Pininfarina, since both companies have a passion for design and a wealth of knowledge gained over many years,” says Andrea Pininfarina. “Up to now we have designed and built cars at our own plants, while the new C70 will be the first car to be built by Pininfarina in another country.”

He adds this is the first time his company has entered into a pure JV with a car manufacturer.

The '06 convertible uses the P1 chassis architecture that it shares with the S40 and V50 – as well as the Mazda3 and the European Ford Focus. However, the C70 has a broader track – front and rear – than the other Volvos. Ford is expected to introduce a Focus convertible in the near future.

The C70 has a long wheelbase that provides high-speed stability. Volvo engineers also lowered the chassis height by 0.3 ins. (0.8 cm) in front and 0.5 ins. (1.3 cm) in the rear, compared with the original P1 chassis. The engineers claim this gives the C70 more stable driving characteristics. Overall length of the new model is 5.4 ins. (13.7 cm) shorter than the predecessor.

The front-drive car will come standard with the 2.5L light-pressure turbocharged T5 engine that generates 218 hp at 5,000 rpm and 236 lb.-ft. (320 Nm) of torque from 1,500 to 4,800 rpm.

The manifold and turbo unit are cast together of high-alloy steel that makes the components resistant to heat.

Emission temperatures can reach 1,922° F (1,051° C), so cooling with gasoline has been minimized. This also allows the engine to run on a leaner mix with lower fuel consumption and reduced emissions – especially at high speed or with a heavy load. The engine is mated with either a 5-speed automatic or 6-speed automatic transmission.

In Europe, Volvo will offer a diesel engine in the C70. It is the same 5-cyl. turbocharged diesel available in its larger cars.